Greis: On the Attack

With classes over, academic obligations fulfilled, and released of responsibility, Leslie Greis seized the chance to play the most maddening of games on a perfect day on the Cape. Basking in the pleasant late-afternoon glow, she muses about the grand old game of golf. "It's a mental game, dominated by inconsistency, a sort of constant inconstancy." That's the reason Greis attacks the game and attacks it with a passion.

Like many other seniors, Greis waited in line in front of the Office of Career Services and Off-Campus Learning to sign up for job interviews this February. Like many other seniors, she spoke with all sorts of corporations. Like many others, she received a handful of alluring offers, from a few national banks, from a grain-trading company, and from a steel company. And for a while, she was prepared to take the corporate plunge.

But Leslie Greis will not spend next year in an air-conditioned office piling up practical experience on the path to business school. Instead, she will traipse the Florida fairways, forsaking the boardroom for the putting green, at least for the time being.

Although she has played the New England golf tour for the last five summers, Greis has had to hold a job for school expenses and has not given the sport her undivided attention. She badly wants to polish her game--"I plan to be pretty intense," she says--with the ultimate objective of making the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour. As long as she thinks she is improving, Greis will stick with the grueling, often disheartening amateur mini-tours and the Grapefruit circuit, paying her dues until she is ready to take on Nancy Lopez and company.

"I figured I'd better do it now, before I start enjoying work too much," explains Greis, who qualified for the U.S. amateur tournament last summer. Of the 164 golfers in the nation who qualified for the prestigious tourney, 100 were cut after the first day of competition. Greis was one of those early casualties. Asked if she remembers her score, Greis laughs and replies, "Yeah, I remember." But she won't volunteer the tally. She tells how everything was going well on the championship course at Memphis, Tenn., until she "rammed the approach shot on the ninth hole against the out of bounds fence." Then she lost her concentration and composure. She now characterizes the round as the "most expensive but most fun" she ever played.

Greis has been haunting the links since she was 13, and at Harvard, she pursued the sport in a most unusual manner--she was the first and only female member of the men's golf team. For the record, there is no Crimson women's squad. She did wind up playing several matches for the linksters, and found the competition challenging. "It's hard to keep up, because men have more strength. If I have 30 yards more to the green than someone else, my approach shot is that much more difficult. I had to be at the top of my game," Greis says. That didn't stop her from meeting the challenge head-on, and she recalls her seasons with the golf team fondly. "They're a good bunch of guys, and they made it nice to play."

Golf at Harvard is one of those sports "you have to do on your own," and besides forcing Greis to push herself into peak form, it also forced her to exploit all available opportunities herself. For Greis, that is what Harvard is all about. "I see college a little differently than most. Some live for the shelters of academia. I think you have to get out and attack the real world every so often. I want to go out there and make a world for myself--this place can be quite a shelter." Indeed, leaving Harvard's protection for the real world seems an obsession for Greis, in part explaining her restlessness as Commencement approaches. She has generally enjoyed her four years here although a case of mono damped her first semester freshman year. Still, Greis feels little nostalgia about leaving. "It feels good to be leaving, it's a relief. I'm getting psyched for playing golf, this is the riskiest thing I could do. I'm waiting for the real world." Then, a pause. "Sometimes I don't know whether I'll be in the real world playing golf."

Her business career will have to wait a while, but her whole life is not just golf--"If it were, I wouldn't have come here." She has full confidence she will eventually "climb the corporate ladder," and adds that "golf certainly helps, it's a very social game." Though golf has a lot to do with "shaping character," she insists she can live without it, and has no delusions about the stacked deck she must play with in her quest to be a pro golfer. "I think I'm one up on many women on the tour who bank on playing golf the rest of their life. I have a good education."

No matter what she does, Greis attacks. Freshman and sophomore years, she was an integral part of the women's varsity basketball team. But after two sparkling seasons, she found the game she had played since fifth grade too time-consuming, and felt whe was simply "doing it out of habit." So she took up squash, worked as a teaching fellow for an applied math course, and concentrated on golf. "You have to question what you do once in a while. You don't really grow that much unless you try new things," she says, but adds that she does miss the team aspect of basketball.

Greis points to her election to class marshal position as the culmination of her undergraduate experience. "I approve of what the University is trying to do. I don't know if it's necessarily succeeding, but as long as it tries, I will support it," she says. So despite her desire to enter the real world and carve a niche for herself, and her marked lack of nostalgia about graduating, Greis remains determined to keep in touch with the University in one way or another. Her pleasant memories result more fron her efforts than the institution's. "There's a lot of things offered here, and you have to motivate yourself to take advantage of them. Harvard should not have to wait on you hand and foot." She echoes many of her classmates when she says she has learned "more from the different people than from the books." Harvard has allowed Greis's attacking style to blossom; and some day, in some distant sand trap or in some distant office, when she has to attack to achieve, Leslie Greis will not hesitate.